Providing the Educational Opportunities that Change Lives

Student Studying

About Us: About Making Waves

           MAKING WAVES STRATEGIC PLAN 2015-2020

           MAKING WAVES ANNUAL REPORT 2014-2015

Opportunities that Change Lives

Making Waves was founded more than 25 years ago when an investment fund manager worked with a local pastor in one of the most underserved cities in California to offer low-income students the same academic and developmental supports that families in the nation's most affluent communities enjoy.

"Throughout the history of the organization, our mission has been to save lives by giving our most challenged citizens an educational pathway to success," says Making Waves co-founder John H. Scully, who has seen the program grow from an after-school tutoring and mentoring program serving 46 students in Richmond in 1989 to a multi-city initiative that is serving nearly 1,200 "Wave-Makers" annually, with more than 300 of them currently attending hundreds of top colleges and universities nationwide.

Today, Making Waves Academy is a thriving charter school in Richmond, California, with both Middle and Upper schools on campus. Simultaneously, we continue to fulfill our original after-school program in both Richmond and San Francisco, Making Waves Education Program. Making Waves has also established a College and Alumni Program to support our Wave-Makers throughout their college journey and beyond, as they ultimately become valuable contributors to the workforce and their communities.


Making Waves commits to rigorously and holistically preparing students to gain acceptance to and graduate from college to ultimately become valuable contributors to the workforce and their communities.

making waves academy - Middle School

Founded in 2007, Making Waves Academy Middle School is a four-year public charter school with a rigorous academic program for Richmond students in fifth through eighth grades. Students are exposed to a full-day of courses and after-school enrichment at the new modern campus, which provides a comprehensive array of services for students and families to ensure that young people achieve beyond grade level and are on track for college success. In addition to rigorous academics, the school emphasizes core values, including scholarship, social and personal responsibility, integrity, self-determination, and community.

The school features unusually low class sizes, a highly trained faculty and an administrative team that understands student motivations and needs. Making Waves provides comprehensive services for students and their families, including health and nutrition, parental support, cultural enrichment and field trips, summer programs, and transportation. The school is committed to inspiring students to academic excellence and preparing them for MWA Upper School and post-secondary educational endeavors that will change their lives forever.

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making waves academy - Upper School

The Upper School, launched in 2011, offers Wave-Makers who have completed Making Waves Academy Middle School the kind of rigorous college-preparatory education typically available to students at elite prep schools. Rich academic course offerings are buttressed with career exploration and individualized holistic supports that enable students to graduate from high school ready to pursue advanced learning and careers that align with their ambitions, passions, and interests. MWA prepares students not just to enter college, but to complete college and aspire to additional graduate and professional degrees.

Our tremendous success is predicated on a holistic approach that includes an array of services beyond our rigorous academic training, among them transportation, meals, mental health services, parent education, financial aid and placement counseling, college visits, and scholarships.

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Making Waves education program - High school

The Making Waves Education Program (MWEP), founded in 1989, was the impetus behind our current Making Waves Academy. Under the leadership of Executive Director-Emeritus, Glenn W. Holsclaw, this original model supported nearly 600 urban youth and their families, who were selected from Title 1 public elementary schools in Richmond and San Francisco.

Making Waves Education Program in Richmond has eleven waves of students. A “wave” is a cohort of students who enter our program in a given year and stay together through their educational journey and beyond. Our graduates have gone on to earn degrees from some of the nation’s most distinguished academic institutions and graduate schools.  Our final Wave of the MWEP-Richmond site will be graduating from high school in June of 2014.

Launched in 2001, our Making Waves Education Program in San Francisco has educated six waves by helping students attend independent schools and provides additional academic course work, tutoring, and homework support.  MWEP-San Francisco also provides the full complement of Making Waves student supports and other interventions, as necessary, to keep children and families on track.  Our two final waves in the MWEP-San Francisco site will graduate from high school in June of 2014 and 2015, respectively, before entering the College and Alumni program.

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College and Alumni program

We have always been dedicated to getting students not just to college, but through it. More than 95 percent of Wave-Makers are the first in their families to go to college, so our extensive support services, delivered from inception through Making Waves Education Program, continue to shepherd them through the higher education maze. We provide admission, housing and financial aid counseling and application support, college tours, advice on the selection of courses and majors, ongoing academic and social mentoring, and tuition grants.

Our newly established College and Alumni Program allows us to more effectively accommodate and support our charter school’s growing student population as they reach the college phase of their educational journey.  Our highly experienced team works with college Wave-Makers to help them navigate the challenging high school-to-college transition and, once Wave-Makers arrive on their college campuses, improve their effectiveness in and out of the classroom to earn their degree.  Our College Coaches consistently serve as advocates for more than 260 college Wave-Makers.

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Making Waves Foundation

Making Waves Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1989, which is responsible for management and strategic planning, oversight, and external affairs across regarding the communication, public relations and development initiatives to best support Making Waves Academy and our College & Alumni Program.

The Foundation has focused increasingly on expanding the reach of Making Waves to ensure that more young people in the Bay Area can benefit from its programs and services. It is also working to ensure that other communities nationwide can adopt its model or strategic approach, learn from its work, and expand partnerships that make student success more attainable for a broader range of students.

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John H. Scully
John H. Scully,
SPO Partners

Rev. Eugene Farlough
The late Rev. Eugene Farlough, Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond

In 1989 Making Waves was established by John H. Scully, Managing Director of SPO Partners, and the late Reverend Eugene Farlough, pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church. Forty-six students from Richmond, California, were chosen to begin an after-school tutoring and mentoring program. A second program was established in 2001 to address underserved youth in San Francisco.

In the Fall of 2007, we opened Making Waves Academy Middle School, a four-year charter school in Richmond, with 100 students entering fifth grade housed in a temporary facility. In 2009, Making Waves Academy celebrated the opening of its permanent home in Richmond. The campus includes a modern facility with a library and technology center at its core, science labs, specialized art and music classrooms, an edible garden, and laptop computers for student use.

In the fall of 2012, Making Waves Academy opened its newest state-of-the-art building on campus in order to accommodate our growing student body. We will reach our full capacity of 800 students in fifth through twelfth grades in fall of 2014.

Social Justice

Founded out of a concern about disparities in educational opportunity, Making Waves works to encourage students to understand and explore:

  • The rich history of the people who live in our communities;
  • The fortunate circumstances in which they live as Wave-Makers;
  • Their own responsibility to give back to their communities and to exert control over their own lives; and
  • The true meaning of being an agent of change.

Making Waves believes that all children have the right to high-quality educational opportunities, to feel safe, and to prepare themselves for self- sufficiency. Wave-Makers strive to be fair and just and to treat others with respect. Each student is reminded to consider his or her own likes, biases, and prejudices and to appreciate a variety of perspectives. Wave-Makers are taught to master effective communication skills (including writing and public speaking) and to understand the effects of their actions and words. Students consider the impact of their decisions and behaviors on others and seek to advance what is in the best interest of all.

Core Values

Wave-Makers embody the following core values:

  • Community—We combine our intellect and critical thinking to support each other and make healthy choices for ourselves and positive changes in our community. 
  • Resilience—We are agents of change, who, through hard work and perseverance, have the power to define ourselves and to control our destiny.
  • Respect—We believe each person is valuable and we demonstrate respect by following our community norms.
  • Responsibility—We have integrity; we are accountable for our decisions and actions and their impact on self and community.
  • Scholarship—We are life-long learners who aspire to and achieve academic excellence.

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